All posts from: September 2010
As the nation’s security services fretted about rogue protestors and terrorist attacks during the Pope’s visit to Britain last week, it was left to a Scottish politician to worry about the impact of the 83-year-old pontiff’s presence in Edinburgh on the nation’s housing.
With the Scottish parliament due to debate housing on the day of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to ‘Auld Reekie’, MSP Mary Mulligan declared: ‘The visit that is taking place in the city might overshadow our debate. Those of us who are complete housing bores might think that the debate might not attract the interest that it deserves.’
Hopefully the ever vigilant Closed Circuit has just gone some way to redress the balance.
Bright young thing Nick Cuff, chair of planning at Wandsworth Council at just 28, was left red-faced in a planning seminar last week after admitting he had opposed a major development in his neighbourhood.
Having received a revered welcome from the panel at the RESI housing conference in Newport last week, Mr Cuff sheepishly admitted he had not wanted a development near his house and had objected as a resident. Of course in his professional capacity he is very much pro-planning, he added.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson had a room of planning big-wigs in stitches when he described staff responsible for retrofitting the capital’s homes as ‘boiler bunnies’.
The London mayor’s quips about a fleet of new green buses (‘hopping on and falling off’) and the Barclays bike-hire scheme (‘the good news is we’ve only had a few fatalities’) added a dose of jollity to the start of World Green Building Week.
As Paul King, ceo of the UK Green Building Council, commented, it’s an unusual talent to be able to make people laugh out loud first thing on a Monday morning.
The panel for an event run by Women in Social Housing this week raised Closed Circuit’s eyebrows. The WISH list of panelists appears at first sight to be somewhat anomalous because two of the four panelists are actually male.
Is the number of women in housing lower than we thought?
The Northern Housing Consortium is well-known for booking eye-catching acts at its annual ball.But this year, they decided to askthe audience for help.
Ventriloquist comedian Paul Zerdin introduced ballroom packed with the cream of northern housing professionals to Sam, his puppet, but soon decided he needed a fresh assistant. So he called Gentoo deputy chief executive John Craggs to the stage. Mr Craggs was evidently relieved that Mr Zerdin was only operating him via a series of strings attached to a mask on his mouth, but that relief soon faded.
Closed Circuit learnt a great deal, via Mr Zerdin, about what Mr Craggs thought of his wife, how much he loved dancing and that he quite enjoyed wearing women’s clothes. There was something rather squeaky about his voice, but aside from that, we’re taking everything he said as gospel.
There was no ‘get out of jail free’ card for Paddy Gray after the CIH president found himself incarcerated recently, alongside Northern Ireland Housing Executive boss Paddy McIntyre.
The pair spent a day in the cells at County Londonderry’s Magilligan Prison last month to raise money for global housing charity Habitat for Humanity. After being locked up by the prison governor, they were allowed to send text messages demanding ‘bail’ in the form of donations. The jailmates raised nearly £1,500 - definitely worth cell-ebrating.
Notting Hill Housing Association appears to be launching a charm offensive on its staff.
‘Love where you work’ entreaties the employee section of the 25,000-home landlord’s website - somewhat ironic given the strike action taken by staff earlier this year over working terms and conditions.
Workers can click through to ‘nice stuff’. Featured perks include free yoga, pilates, stress buster massages and a healthy eating campaign. Another tab, marked ‘career fertiliser’ encourages staff to ‘blossom and grow’ as a ‘big part of being able to love where you work’.
It all sounds great but Closed Circuit does wonder how this happy working environment is translating on the ground. Afterall, it was only this summer that Notting Hill bosses resorted to speaking to staff through arbitration service Acas to halt more industrial action.
As if clutching a soggy fag on the doorstep of their local pub wasn’t enough, it now seems Britain’s smokers are being left out in the cold when it comes to renting a home.
Research from easyroommate.co.uk shows just 7 per cent of landlords are happy to let people smoke in their properties and 19 per cent of flatsharers are happy to share with smokers.
Sharing a home with a smoker has become such an unappetising prospect that a third of smokers admitted they have lied about their habit to get a room. Landlords cite smells and increased fire risks as reasons for rejecting smoking potential tenants. Clearly time to switch to menthol cigarettes.
When David Cameron launched his ‘big society’ vision he also launched a new national pastime: figuring out what the heck the PM is going on about.
Martin Cheeseman, Brent Council’s director of housing and community care, was asked for his ha’penny’s worth at a Brent Homeless User Group meeting last week. A journalist who spotted that Mr Cheeseman was speaking at the event emailed ahead for his views. But the scribe included an unfortunate typo, asking Mr Cheeseman what he thought about the ‘bog society’. ‘I thought that was quite appropriate,’ Mr Cheeseman told his audience, adding that he approves of making communities more inclusive.
Debate continues to rage as to whether Britain’s banks should be broken up.
Aside from the possible economic benefits of having smaller banks, perhaps such a move would also improve the chances of bank press officers knowing what their employer actually does.
This week Closed Circuit contacted Santander, one of the biggest lenders to the social housing sector, only to be told flatly that it does not lend to housing associations. A baffled Closed Circuit pointed out that it regularly sees details of loans to associations; but the press officer stuck to her guns. Closed Circuit phoned back with an example of £150 million loaned to associations by the bank in a two-month period from last December. Still the press officer insisted she was right.
Finally, 10 minutes later she sent a sheepish email explaining she was a corporate finance specialist and that the error was the fault of a colleague.
Beatlemania is back, and this time it’s uniting against the housing market renewal programme.
Fans of the Fab Four were horrified when demolition notices appeared in the Liverpool street where Ringo Starr spent his early years, announcing the imminent demise of the drummer’s home.
Liverpool pathfinder NewHeartlands has earmarked hundreds of houses around Madryn Street for demolition to make way for more modern family homes. Ringo’s home has long been in the firing line but there had been hopes among fans that it would be saved.
A Save Madryn Street campaign is calling for Ringo’s house to be moved to a museum. Closed Circuit can tell it’s going to be a hard day’s night.
A Closed Circuit received a carefully crafted press release this week announcing that Jas Sidhu, operations director of Residential Management Group’s Public Sector Division, has been awarded an MBE.
This is fantastic news for Mr Sidhu, although the amount of time taken to hone the perfectly written missive might mean that calling it ‘news’ might now be a stretch. Mr Sidhu’s honour was, in fact, made public last December.
While this latest press release doesn’t quite beat the one Closed Circuit received recently about the roofing on flats on the site of the old Arsenal stadium (completed a year before the release was issued), it’s certainly a front-runner in the race for the slowest press release ever.
Carpet beaters rejoice - the housing minister took a break from the recess this week to address some pressing business that may affect their lives.
Grant Shapps carried on his zeal for scrapping things by outlining plans to give councils a new power to review and get rid of outdated byelaws.
He suggested the news could be good news for carpet beaters in Blackpool, who for years have struggled under a harsh law which prevents the beating of carpets or the placing of any clothing on the promenade. Closed Circuit understands that surreptitious carpet beaters have been plying their trade in the dead of the night for more than 100 years. I think most readers will applaud Mr Shapps for stepping in to protect this much maligned minority.